When Thanksgiving Day rolls around at Carla Hall’s house, you’re not about to see a big roasted turkey as her table’s centerpiece. That’s because before she even starts to cook the bird, she’s broken it down into pieces, maybe even cooking it in a few different ways to give her friends and family some variety. “Everyone wants to re-create that Norman Rockwell painting with the whole bird,” Hall says with a laugh. “But I like to mix it up. I use the bones for my gravy and for stock, because I am not cooking on the day after Thanksgiving.” The former Top Chef fan favorite and star of The Chew may do a dry salt brine with gremolata for one part, a wet brine with herbs for another, and for yet another a spicy grilled version that’s inspired by the “hot chicken” at Prince’s, an institution in Hall’s hometown, Nashville, where many in her family still live. “At soul food restaurants,” Hall says, “you’d have turkey and gravy and layer it.”
At Hall’s house, you can layer or not. But Thanksgiving is always about soul food. Along with that turkey three ways, she mixes up the sides as well, serving straight-up versions of her grandmother’s holiday dishes: candied yams, collard greens, green beans, cornbread dressing, “lots of pickled things, and a million desserts” with her own special-occasion recipes. Creamed kale and a creamy, textured spoonbread may stand in for the collards and cornbread dressing. And Hall’s melt-in-your mouth biscuits may have her own touches, but they’re still Granny’s through and through.